Romanian Cornmeal Porridge (Mamaliga) Recipe

Stew with polenta
Claudia Totir / Getty Images
  • 45 mins
  • Prep: 0 mins,
  • Cook: 45 mins
  • Yield: 6 bowls (6 servings)
Ratings (15)

It's not surprising this Romanian cornmeal porridge or mamaliga ​recipe is similar to Italian polenta.

In the 16th century, the Turks introduced corn brought by Venetian merchants from the New World to northern Italians and Romanians, who planted the corn and made mush with it. This mush became ​Italian polenta and Romanian mamaliga. Mamaliga is a staple and is served on peasant tables and in the fanciest restaurants.

It can be made in so many ways -- boiled in water, stock or milk, with cheese or sour cream, herbs, butter, and on and on. This is a basic soft mamaliga recipe.


What You'll Need

  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Telemea or​ feta cheese (optional)
  • Fresh herbs of choice (optional)

How to Make It

  1. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the salt and butter, stirring to melt. Using a wooden spoon, add the cornmeal very gradually, while stirring constantly in the same direction.
  2. Simmer over low heat, stirring frequently, until it thickens and starts to pull away from the sides of the pot, about 35-40 minutes. Serve hot.

Note: If desired, while mamaliga is still hot, add more butter, cheese, sour cream, and herbs.

Mamaliga can also be served with a dollop of sour cream. Mamaliga can be poured into a pan. When cool, it can be flipped out onto a cutting board, cut into squares and sauteed in butter until crispy.

More Ways to Use Mamaliga

  • Mamaliga Balls RecipeMamaliga or cornmeal porridge is cooked until thick and moldable. It's portioned into balls and stuffed with salami or smoked sausage and fried. Substitute chunks of ham or feta cheese for the salami. This is a great appetizer, snack or finger food appropriate with cocktails.
  • Oxtail Stew Recipe: Mamaliga is the perfect accompaniment for hearty stews like this one made with oxtails braised in red wine.
  • Croatian Venison Goulash RecipeIn Croatian, polenta is known as palenta. This stew is perfect over a bed of mamaliga but mashed potatoes or egg noodles work just as well. 
  • Peppered Shrimp and Cauliflower RecipeMamaliga is the perfect canvas for a masterpiece like tender shrimp and crisp cauliflower, all boldly seasoned with garlic and black pepper. It's a hands-off dish that requires little stirring.
  • Spiced Lamb Stew RecipeA combination of ginger, cinnamon, cumin, tomatoes, garlic, and lemon juice add exotic flavors to this lamb stew. Serve it over mamaliga, rice, grits or couscous.